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Friday, August 14, 2020

Con: Group Work

One of the hardest skills a student will ever learn throughout their college career is self-reliance. Therefore, having the crutch of group projects is more detrimental than helpful to a student’s education.

There is always that one student in a group project who is unreliable. For this instance, we’ll name him Tim. Tim has an alright personality, he’s easy to talk to and seems responsible (the key word being  ‘seems’).

Fast forward two weeks before the project is due, and Tim is nowhere to be found. There is a worrying empty space in the PowerPoint where Tim’s assigned part should be. All of a sudden, the very seemingly normal classmate has dropped off the face of the planet. It is not until a week before the deadline he resurrects to say he hasn’t done his part due do some mysterious ‘sickness’ that had him incapacitated.

Now it is two days until the deadline and Tim seems to have put more effort into his excuses than his assigned part.

Due to this group project horror story – everyone has no doubt felt, at some point in their academic career, that group projects are ineffectual.  

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University titled, “What are the benefits of group work?” group work is never 100 percent.

“In fact, group projects can – and often do – backfire badly when they are not designed, supervised, and assessed in a way that promotes meaningful teamwork and deep collaboration,” the study wrote.

While professors sometimes try to integrate failsafe systems such as peer evaluation sheets that count for a grade, this still does not fix the problem. The true issue is that only a couple of students end up doing the work required to get a passing grade; whereas the Tims of the world ride on the backs of their success.

Despite graded peer evaluations, this does nothing to temper the cynicism that is formed during group projects due to the inequality of the workload. Even with group collaboration, college cannot teach a student motivation. The quality of the work will be unequal, therefore, the education received will be unequal among students.

Grand Canyon University’s Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching reports, the act of grading a group project can prove difficult to the professor.

Too often students are lumped together under the term “group work” and are expected to just make it work. These group projects are hardly planned out well enough to suit a variety of students in a way that equally distributes the work load and promotes collaborative learning.

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